Bobby Farrell, singer in the ’70s disco group Boney M, died Dec. 30 while on tour in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was 61.
Farrell was found dead of unknown causes in his hotel room after he failed to answer a wake-up call, according to an Associated Press report.
Boney M was created in 1974 by Frank Farian; the German producer achieved infamy in the ’90s as the fabricator of faux vocal duo Milli Vanilli, who were stripped of their best new artist Grammy after it was revealed they didn’t sing on their hits. Farian performed the male vocals on Boney M’s first European hit, “Baby Do You Wanna Bump,” and then assembled a group to work as a live unit.
A former sailor, Aruba-born Farrell was the only male member of the female-fronted group. Boney M’s biggest singles were the dance hits “Daddy Cool,” a cover of Bobby Hebb’s 1966 hit “Sunny” and a version of the Melodians’ 1970 reggae song “Rivers of Babylon,” all released in 1977-78. Farian and his studio musicians performed the male vocals on these recordings.
Farrell, known more for his glittering costumes and onstage moves than his singing, was ousted from the group in 1981, and the original lineup splintered in 1986.
Competing units featuring former members of the band and using the Boney M name have toured internationally since the ’90s; based in Amsterdam, Farrell employed the handle and re-cut some of the group’s hits under his own name. Farrell’s daughter and wife, who are among his survivors, renewed the copyright on the group’s name in 2007.